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Early Childhood - a pathway to peace?

Jill Magennis, PhD student in the school of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work reflects on a recent visit to Israel:

In collaboration with the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) and the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development for Peacebuilding, I recently travelled to Israel as part of my doctoral studies to learn more about the experiences of educators in relation to promoting respect for diversity and peacebuilding. During my 15 day visit I met with various teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the issues they are experiencing. This helped me to deepen my appreciation of the similarities and differences across Northern Ireland and Israel and ways forward for peacebuilding in conflict affected societies. I enjoyed visiting Talpiot College of Education in Tel Aviv, Masar Institute for Education in Nazareth and Kaye Academic College of Education in Beer Sheba and meeting with early years teachers to learn more about their role in peacebuilding. 

During my time I visited a range of kindergartens (attended by children aged 3-6 years) including Jewish religious, Jewish secular, Arab and Bilingual settings. I interviewed both Jewish and Arab teachers from a range of areas across the country and I found this experience to be humbling to help me in my personal journey of learning about both the conflict and aspects of culture/religion. My goal is that my research will offer hope and understanding across regions to support the work of peacebuilding for young children in the future. The role of early years educators are vital to foster respect for diversity and build more peaceful communities, the words of the UN Secretary – General Ban Ki Moon (2013) are a useful reminder to the rationale behind this visit:  ‘Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity’.